POPE FRANCIS has attacked the “murderous indifference” and “complicit silence” of the international community to the plight of the Middle East, at the end of a one-day summit for Christian leaders to promote peace in the region.
He accused some of sheltering behind words about reconciliation while building weapons: “You cannot speak of peace while you are secretly stockpiling arms,” he said.
“Indifference kills, and we desire to lift up our voices in opposition to this murderous indifference. For the Middle East today is weeping, suffering, and silent, as others trample upon those lands in search of power or riches.”
He also condemned religious extremism, saying that many conflicts had been stoked by “forms of fundamentalism and fanatacism that, under the guise of religion, have profaned God’s name, which is peace, and persecuted age-old neighbours”.
Speaking at a prayer gathering after the summit, the Pope spoke of the “terrible suffering”, particularly of children, in Syria: a conflict in which 400,000 people have died, and millions more have been displaced from their homes.
Nineteen leaders from the Eastern Catholic Churches and Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Middle East Council of Churches attended the gathering in the southern Italian city of Bari, which, for centuries, has been the gateway to the Middle East. The Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sent a representative. It was the first time that Orthodox patriarchs had met the Pope in such numbers.
Pope Francis also renewed his backing for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine dispute.